For many, the New Year means looking for ways to include more exercise and physical activity in their already busy lives. Trail hiking is a great way to get moving, and with a tool like Trail Finder you can quickly and easily search for trails near you. Pick a trail, pack a bag and check out these tips to maximize the fitness benefits of your outdoor adventures.
1. Feel your feet: Find comfortable shoes that offer good support. Trails have uneven surfaces and elevation, which helps with body awareness (proprioception, if you want to get technical). As you walk, focus on feeling your feet underneath you. This practice can help with balance improvement, posture control and strength.
2. Hidden cardio: Trail walking/trekking is an easy, accessible and affordable activity that enhances fitness levels. Walking is the best-known physical activity for improvement and maintenance of fitness and health. In addition, walking has been found to have direct and rapid effects on your metabolism.
3. Enjoy the descent: Walking down a hill is an “eccentric” exercise and helps build strength. Many find that walking downhill (after the awesome incline you just conquered) can cause more pain, as stress/strain is put on your legs. To minimize discomfort, try to focus on your posture control by not slamming your feet down. Keep your torso upright (avoid leaning back) and knees bent to absorb each landing. This will allow your thigh muscles (quadriceps) to do the work!
4. Find a friend: Research confirms that having a workout partner can increase time spent exercising, improve performance and help with motivation and accountability. It is also a good idea to have someone with you in remote locations. If you don’t have an exercise partner, let someone know where you will be and how long you’ll be gone.
5. Be mindful: Get familiar with trails and have a destination in mind. Hiking is not a race. Take it steady. Observe the scenery. Listen and look for wildlife. Enjoy the fresh air. Don’t forget to congratulate yourself on taking steps to a healthier 2019!
LeeAnne Gullet is a strength and conditioning coach and certified athletic trainer.